National Air and Space Museum to Welcome Steve Fossett's History-Making Airplane for Permanent Display at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
The National Air and Space Museum will acquire the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, in which adventurer Steve Fossett became the first person to fly an airplane solo, nonstop around the globe without refueling. The aircraft, which also holds the aviation long-distance record, is to be delivered to the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., by Fossett on Tuesday, May 23, (weather permitting), after landing at adjacent Washington Dulles International Airport on its final flight ever.
Between Feb. 28 and March 2, 2005, Fossett became the first person to fly an airplane nonstop, solo, around the world without refueling when he landed his Global Flyer in Salina, Kan., 67 hours, one minute and 10 seconds after it took-off from the same airfield. He also set an absolute around-the-world speed record of 342.2 mph while flying 22,928 miles.
One year later, between Feb. 8 and 11, Fossett piloted the airplane to a nonstop, non-refueled distance record of 25,766 miles, flying from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, around the world and landing in Bournemouth, England, after flying for 76 hours, 42 minutes and 55 seconds. The next month, between March 14 and 17, he set a closed-course distance record by flying Global Flyer 25,505.5 miles over Salina, Kan., in 74 hours and 26 minutes.
“Pushed to their limits, Steve Fossett and Global Flyer charted some of the few remaining frontiers of flight,” museum director Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey said. “We’re proud to welcome this remarkable machine into the national collection.”
Record-breaking aviator Steve Fossett commented, “The mission is complete. The Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer has been flown to its full capability and set some of the most important records in aviation: The First Solo Nonstop Round the World; the Nonstop Distance Record; and the Closed Circuit Distance Record. Now it is time for the final flight of the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, flying to take its place in aviation history along side the great aircraft in the Smithsonian’s collection at the Udvar-Hazy Center. My entire team will be proud to see her there.”
The museum also is acquiring Global Flyer’s Williams turbofan engine, which was a key to the success of the airplane. The aircraft will be displayed in a hanging position amid the general aviation collection in the Udvar-Hazy Center’s Boeing Aviation Hangar. The engine will be displayed at floor level. The aircraft and the engine will be formally accessioned into the national collection in June.
The Udvar-Hazy Center currently is home to 126 aircraft and 142 large space artifacts. With additional objects being added continually, the center will ultimately house some 200 aircraft and 200 large space artifacts.
In 2002, the museum acquired the gondola from the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom, in which Fossett made the first solo, around-the-world flight in a balloon. The gondola is displayed in the “Pioneers of Flight” gallery in the museum’s flagship building on the National Mall in Washington.
Global Flyer is the sixth vehicle designed by Burt Rutan in the museum’s collection. The museum’s National Mall building features Rutan’s Voyager aircraft, which in 1986 made the first nonstop, non-refueled flight around the world. Last year the museum acquired the Rutan-designed SpaceShipOne, which is the first privately built and piloted vehicle to reach space. SpaceShipOne is displayed in the Mall building’s “Milestones of Flight” gallery.
The Udvar-Hazy Center and the museum’s flagship building on the National Mall are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Closed Dec. 25)
The museum’s Mall building will open at 9 a.m. beginning Friday, May 26, through Labor Day, Sept. 4, with the first floor, Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater and food court accessible. The second floor of the building will open at 10 a.m. Admission to both museum facilities is free, but there is a $12 daily parking fee at the Udvar-Hazy Center. An annual parking pass also is available for purchase.
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